I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. Ask your animal-related questions at 1-877-610-3647 or email@example.com. Again, the telephone number is 877-610-3647. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's go right to work and take a telephone call from Marianne. Marianne, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
I have two cats, and I've had them since they were kittens, got them from the local shelter, girl and a boy, they're littermates. They're about a year-and-a-half old now, and they are spayed and they're neutered.
Their names are Dylan and Abby. They've always wrestled as kittens, and back then they were little enough that it was just all in play, very cute, wonderful, but now they're growing up. So when they do wrestle, I don't hear any growling, I hear a rare meow, no hissing, no blood drawn, but I do sometimes see them break out of their wrestling with their ears back a little bit, their tails whipping, and then they launch back at each other and continue wrestling.
What concerns me the most though is that they scratch each other on the face near the eyes with their back claws and their back legs are pretty powerful, and I do keep...
...their back claws trimmed, you know, but I'm concerned about damage to their eyes. But most of all what concerns me is when I see one, and it's usually Dylan, getting Abby on her back and basically putting his teeth right on her throat.
Now, again, no blood ever drawn, no, in my opinion, overt signs of major aggression, but...
...in a split second, if he changes his mind and decides to bite down on her throat, she can be in serious trouble I think.
So on the one hand, I don't want to risk breaking their bond as littermates. I want them to play. I want them to enjoy each other, but on the other, I don't want them to hurt each other, and if this is a symptom of something that could get worse, I need to figure out when I should intervene, and on the other hand...
Right. How to nip it in the bud.
Yeah. I don't want to come down on them...
...for simply being cats.
If they're doing this and they've been doing this since they were kittens, if their other behavior is to hang out together and to seem to like each other's company, you don't have to worry about this. And if Dylan wanted to really get aggressive with Abby, he would.
Keep an eye on it. If it starts to get worse, or they're swatting at each other, I mean, that's the other thing too. Cats are pretty overt about how they feel about each other afterward. So if they're still hanging out together and they're okay, I think you're fine. And I agree with you, you don't want to discourage play. It's the best enrichment in the world for these guys.
Oh, exactly. You know, and they do hang out on the cat tree together, they can eat within proximity of each other.
I suspect part of this is somewhat territorial, especially on Dylan's part. I think he's kind of growing up and trying to assert himself to Abby.
Because oftentimes she'll be sitting somewhere very innocently, and he will start the wrestling session...
...and she will just get like enough of this, and she will walk away, and then he will sit down exactly where she was sitting, like this is where I want to be.
Oh, the -- okay. Yeah.
So some of it I think is a little bit of a difference in...
But that's very normal. That's very normal.
And that's how they interact, and I think they're probably communicating pretty well with each other. You're smart to keep an eye out for it and make sure it doesn't get worse, and you're also very smart to trim those back nails, and the front ones if you can do it.
Yes. Oh, yeah.
But the thing that -- and I bet you're also smart enough that you've done this, make sure that they both have a safe place for time out so that if Dylan is the more energetic, more quote/unquote "aggressive" one, make sure that Abby has a place that she can escape to, you know, that there's a place on the cat tree she can jump up to, or there's a room she can go in, just so there's enough space for them, that's all. Cats change as they get older. So a year and a half, they're about to become adults.
They really technically are.
And, you know, the kittens that used to always play together sometimes don't as they get to become adults.
So I would just watch to make sure things don't escalate, but I think it's okay. It's normal cat communication.
The last question I would have then is if everything that they're doing right now is okay, then where is that line? When I see X, that's when I should intervene. What is that line in your opinion?
An injury is that line, and an injury can be an accident. We've all done that, especially as, you know, boys growing up. But -- and sometimes girls too of course. That's obviously the line that you don't want to cross more than once.
And hopefully it won't even be a big crossing of that line that one time. But the line for me really is their interaction when they're not acting like this. So when you see that these guys don't like each other, can't be in the room with each other, there's a hissing from the other side of the room, or Abby ducks to go out the other way, that's the line that needs to be watched. That's more important.
Yeah. They're nowhere near that. Definitely not.
Thank you, Marianne.
Thank you so much.
Let's take a telephone call from Maureen. Maureen, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi, Dr. Gary.
I'm calling about our four-and-a-half year old adopted dog named Spud, who we've had since he was about six months old.
He's a -- we think he's a Terrier Boxer mix, and he's a super sweet guy.
He gets along with our eight-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, he gets along with the kids and with me, and he's nearly always extremely eager to please except in two situations.
And when this happens, he has like a freak switch that goes off, and we can't do a lot to control him.
Oh, boy. Okay.
The first situation is when the vacuum cleaner is touched. It doesn't even have to get turned on. He loses his mind.
And the second is -- I'm sorry.
What does he do? Does he bark at it?
Oh, no. He attacks it. He barks and he attacks it, he chews up the vacuum cleaner, he chews up the plugs.
Oh, no. Okay.
Yeah. He doesn't like the vacuum at all.
Yeah. The mortal enemy of the dog.
So, we've figured that out.
Yeah. We put him in his cage and everything, you know, he's still upset and agitated, but that's okay.
But the bigger situation is he's very territorial, so that if there's another dog or another animal who walks anywhere near our house, he loses his mind and attacks the curtains and the windows and jumps and barks and does all kinds of things.
And we just need to figure out how to make him be a better neighbor, and to save my curtains.
Ah, yeah. Okay.
(laugh) Problems there.
So this indoors she does it? Save your furniture...
...your sanity too.
Okay. So it's about dogs. He's reacting about dogs then when they're walking outside?
It's not -- well, unfortunately he slipped out of the house a couple of times too, and then it's not just when it's through the window. Sometimes it's actually...
That's not an uncommon thing, and it's a tough one, you know. There's not a whole lot you're going to be able to do to change it except for to avoid the situation as much as you can.
So if you have a lot of dog parade going on outside of your house and he's inside guarding the living room and standing on the sofa, then you might want to draw the shades, you know...
...or the curtains. You can start to quote/unquote "attack" the problem by taking to a reactive dog class, and one of the things -- well, I'll correct that. The most common thing that dogs are reactive about are dogs, and, you know, we always joke, dogs are their own worst enemy because they're, you know, the most wonderful creatures in the world, but some of them in groups of others of them don't behave in the best way. So you could go to a reactive dog class, and I don't know if you're in the Washington D.C. area, but…
...you know, my old and most beloved shelter, the Washington Animal Rescue League has a lot of reactive dog classes, so those are actually ones that you actually keep dogs apart when you're going in on the first day, and the tenth day when you're coming out, the dogs are all coming out together. It's like a machine. It's actually really wonderful to see. That may help with Spud, but it's probably not going to eliminate the whole issue, so he's going to always get aroused with other dogs, and you just have to watch it as much as you can and make sure, yeah, he doesn't get out and attack anybody, and he is a Terrier, so that's, you know, he's acting like a Terrier.
But it's just one of the multiple components of, you know, being a dog, and I think you just have to watch it for the most part. But you could try a reactive dog class to see if you can decrease it a bit.
Okay. Great. That's sounds like a great opportunity for us to look into.
Thank you, Maureen.
He sounds wonderful otherwise. So it's just...
Spud's an excellent name for a dog anyway.
Yeah. It is a good name.
And Spud has got a great future ahead of him. Thanks, Maureen. 877-610-3647 is our telephone number. Animalhouse@wamu.org is our email address. Maybe all animals should be named Spud. I'm just thinking about that now.
I like it.
Let's take a telephone call from Donna. Donna, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes, I do. My question is whether or not a puppy mill rescue is an appropriate choice for our family at this time.
We put down our 14-year Lhasa about three weeks ago, and his companion dog, which is an 11-year-old Shih Tzu, is taking the loss much more seriously than we thought she was.
And we've decided to get another older small dog rescue. I actually have a lot of experience working with puppy mill dogs at the Washington Animal Rescue League for many years as a volunteer.
And I understand the needs of these dogs.
But given the other pets in our home, I'm not sure the energy level in our house would be a good fit for one of these dogs at this time. We have, in addition to the Shih Tzu, a couple of cats which are both rescues. One is 19 and one is 14, and we have a very large two-and-a-half-year old, 103-pound Golden Retriever...
Oh, wow, okay.
...who has feet like an Emu.
And he's a very big dog.
He's well trained, but still throws his weight around a little bit and we're working on that.
So Donna, let me interrupt. Are you specifically worried about a puppy mill dog in terms of the energy output of such an animal?
Only in the sense that I think that a dog -- a puppy mill dog might be overwhelmed by the size and the energy level of the Golden. The Golden gets along well with the Shih Tzu, but he doesn't realize that he's a big dog living with a small dog...
...and he plays with her as if she is his equal, and she handles him...
Oh, believe me, small dogs have no idea that they're small dogs anyway. You know that from working with dogs.
Yeah. I would say it's wonderful, first of all, your volunteerism is wonderful, at the League. It's wonderful to be considering a puppy mill dog, and, you know, they do specialize there in, you know, getting puppy mill dogs to safety, which is terrific. But -- and you've seen those dogs. It's not one characterization that we could put on these animals. They're all different. There are some that are shut down, that are shy, there are some that are potentially -- well, they're like any dog. They can have behavior traits, but they do need behavior rehab.
They do need help, you know, from going from those horrific abuse situations into the lucky land of living in your home. But I think it really depends on the dog. I would not discourage you at all from looking at a dog that came from a puppy mill. You know, they can be absolutely fantastic, like any dog, and of course there are some challenges as well. But that's why it's important to talk to the adoption counselor wherever you go and, you know, I'm going to be biased and say go to a shelter or rescue group regardless of what you get, and then get the right match for your house.
Your house sounds fantastic to me. You know, a big old Golden, Shih Tzu, cats of different ages. I think that that would be a lucky place for a puppy mill to land, but like any dog, it has to be the right one for your family.
Sure. I -- we've had Goldens in the past, and three seems to be the magic number. If you can be patient...
...until they get to age three, then they kind of mellow out.
Yes. No. If you if you live long enough to get to age three, yeah. I know.
They mellow out and, you know, it gets easier.
But I was just concerned about the fact that this is, you know, this is a very active, energetic house.
And I -- we're certainly capable of giving the attention, the training, and the patience to any dog.
But I just didn't know whether, you know, a dog from a puppy mill versus a rescue dog from another situation...
I -- yeah.
...was really the right way to go.
I don't think it matters. I think it just -- it completely depends on the dog.
Oh, that's great, because I've got my eye on one at the Animal Rescue League.
Okay. I love it. I love it.
(laugh) I suspected that was in the background already, Donna.
As a matter of fact...
...we're taking them -- the others over to see him on the weekend, so...
...hopefully this will all work out.
Good, good, good.
I suspect by Monday there might be a new addition to the Donna family, Gary. What do you think?
Yeah, I think so.
Donna, thank you very much for calling. Good to talk to you. And thank you, Dr. Gary.
Ah, thank you, Sam. I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman with an "Animal House" pet care tip. Why is dentistry such a big deal for our pets? They need it just as much as we do, sometimes more. Get them used to having their teeth brushed at least a couple times a week, preferably every day like we do. You have to use a pet toothpaste, and it's often liver or chicken flavored, and sometimes even fish flavored for cats, but these are digestible toothpastes, unlike ours. Of course, you have to get your pets used to you doing this, so start slowly with a soft pet toothbrush, apply the paste on the outside of the teeth and don't bother with that inside because you'll never get that far.
Do a little of this twice a week to start, and reward with a high-value treat, and be sure to talk to your vet about getting full dental cleaning at least once every couple years. If you can, avoid the non-anesthetic versions. You can't get under the gums where the tarter starts, and it will just annoy your pet. For "The Animal House," I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman.
This edition of "The Animal House," is near completion, but first, here's the answer to our "Animal of the Day" quiz. Earlier we asked if you could identify the animal that's known as the world's highest production dairy animal, the answer, the Holstein Cow, which can usually be identified by its distinctive black and white markings. Thanks to our guests, Steven Wise, Elizabeth Howard, Jenny Brown, and WAMU news reporter Elliott Francis for their contributions today. We also thank Bob James and Acoustic Alchemy for their music today. Special thanks to Dr. Gary Weitzman for his work, and thanks to you for joining us in "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger.
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